“If I only had more time.” That age-old excuse that has been used by creatives (perhaps for centuries) for not getting the work they are most passionate about, done.
For psychotherapist Jenny Velarde MA, LCAT, RDT, who specializes in working with professional creatives, she knew it was far beyond just time (or the lack thereof) that was holding people back from getting their most prized work completed. It was chronic procrastination. And for many, this pandemic has proven her theory correct.
“For so many of us as artists [of all modalities,] we tend to lean heavily on the ‘cabin in the woods’ fantasy. Wishing and hoping for huge blocks of time to get our greatest creative ideas into motion. Yet when that day actually comes, it can serve as a deeply painful wake-up call, because the work still doesn’t get done,” Velarde says.
For so many, quarantining not only offered more time, but rather nothing but time. For some this has served as a watershed period of creative progress and for others, Velarde points out, a deepening of pain, frustration, and/or depression when the creative wheels still aren’t turning, even despite the massive shift in available free time.
Velarde advocates that creative progress has very little to do with the time we have available to us, but rather “how we train ourselves as creators to wield it.”
As an expert on chronic procrastination and a leader in guiding others toward shifting into what she refers to as satiating progress, Velarde explains, “The opposite of chronic procrastination isn’t productivity. It’s engagement. And without this understanding, of course we’re going to get stuck in the cycle.”
As a psychotherapist specializing in Drama Therapy, Jenny has worked with hundreds of clients of all backgrounds for nearly a decade, throughout New York City. She hones in on professional creatives through her Brooklyn-based private practice. This is where she reports having experienced “a front row seat” to chronic procrastination and the impact it can have on creative progress when it’s not properly addressed.
Velarde has worked with artists across the spectrum, including professional actors, writers, musicians, filmmakers, producers, and more. Some at the peak of their fame and skill set and some at the new beginnings of their professional paths.
During her early years in private practice she reports having noticed, “Clients coming to me with a pattern of chronic procrastination, no matter where they were situated in level of influence, expertise, or seasoning.”
Velarde’s interest in chronic procrastination was piqued, drawing her in toward digging in deeper in understanding its impact, both by her work as a psychotherapist and her own artistic lineage.
Born to two teenage artists, Velarde spent her childhood closely observing how her parents used their creative minds, not just for their crafts but as a means of survival.
“I remember a period when my dad worked as a graphic artist during the day, the graveyard shift at a McDonald’s drive-thru at night, and then would come home and work on his oil paintings before starting the cycle again. His creative hunger served to keep him [and us] afloat,” stated Velarde.
By watching her parents continue to strive for their artistic visions despite trying life circumstances, embedded in her a deep respect for artists and what they offer.
“Artists are our true leaders. This isn’t a nicety. It’s a fact. Those who are brave enough to create, shape our world, whether we give credence to them or not.”
Velarde explains that because of her “fierce belief” in creators as critical leaders, she honed in on chronic procrastination and how it can hold people back from not only stepping deeper into their creative progress, but their lives as a whole.
Velarde explains that chronic procrastination is more than a day of binge-watching on a streaming service or falling down the social media rabbit hole once in a while. “Chronic procrastination is a well-worn emotional cycle that without the tools to shift out of it, can paralyze one’s creative process for months, years, even decades if it’s left to its own devices,” stated Velarde.
When she started applying this methodology within her own practice, Velarde noticed radical shifts in the lives of her clients, materializing as significant movement, not just within their professions, but throughout all parts of their lives.
Then, quarantine hit, highlighting this phenomenon even further. Yet curiously, in large part, the creators she was working with during the pandemic were not just surviving, but flourishing, expressed Velarde.
She further explained this didn’t mean her clients weren’t up against struggles, particularly since COVID-19 was causing such upheaval, difficulty and uncertainty (particularly in the creative fields.) “Because my clients were boldly putting tools into action to make fulfilling progress in all parts of their lives, pre-pandemic, they carried those tools over into the unknown of pandemic life and continued to build.”
Velarde continued on to say, “Right and left, despite the challenges 2020 brought with it, clients were finding major moments of accomplishment, beauty, progress, and deep satisfaction throughout their careers, their relationships—the fullness of their lives. It was the potency of them taking on their chronic procrastination, actively when life was more predictable.”
Now, through her method, The Procrastination System, which is online and available to everyone, Velarde guides others to walk through the complexities of chronic procrastination, one step at a time.
She states, “Procrastination can be physiologically, neurologically, emotionally, relationally, environmentally, spiritually, and/or creatively rooted. Our brains and bodies, the physical and emotional choices we make, the environments and relationships that shape us, the modeling we’ve received, the trauma we’ve endured. All this history within us can serve as underlying facets for our chronic procrastination.”
“Without tapping into these underlying factors with inquisitiveness, care and exploration, procrastination can shift from an occasional ineffective choice to becoming our baseline. It starts to serve as a misaligned coping strategy for the things that may actually need and deserve our attention,” Velarde said.
What’s more, Velarde asserts that procrastination won’t disappear on its own, and furthermore, we wouldn’t want it to. She explains, “We don’t want to banish our procrastination, because it’s a precious informant in our lives. For example, often when we are chronically procrastinating it indicates that in some form, we are chronically exhausted. When we listen, our procrastination clues us into things we may not be picking up on, otherwise.”
Velarde explains that by “partnering procrastination,” we are able to effectively learn from it and “transform” it into something more satisfying.
“When we team up with our procrastination, it can shockingly offer us the tools we need to transform it. And often this results as a landslide of satiating creative progress in our lives. It’s so worth taking it on now, so that it’s not keeping an abundance of guilt, one of the key emotions in the cycle of chronic procrastination, in our life, front and center, two, five, ten years down the line.”
None of us are sure when this pandemic will come to an end but what we can be sure of—Without the right approach, the chronic procrastination that is holding us back from reaching our creative goals may continue to persist, indefinitely.
To learn more about The Procrastination System for yourself, check out Velarde’s website here: www.artistasguide.com/the-procrastination-system. And follow Velarde on her YouTube channel at Artist As Guide: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCGGkmwrWgfeBIXsfUPxPR-A
Jenny Velarde MA, LCAT, RDT, a psychotherapist specializing in Drama Therapy, has worked with hundreds of clients of all backgrounds for nearly a decade with an emphasis toward professional creatives. Jenny is a passionate expert on the complexities of Chronic Procrastination and guiding others toward stepping into their creative fullness. She developed her online method, The Procrastination System, to aid people all over the world and provides free video resources on her website, www.artistasguide.com